Photographer Lucas Cesário aims to counter misrepresentations of the Black queer community in Rio
The Rio-born photographer is proud of where he comes from and therefore wants to show his viewers – and those like him – the beauty of his locality.
- Ayla Angelos
- 25 October 2021
Lucas Cesário was born in Realengo, a suburb west of Rio de Janeiro that’s continued to be neglected by the state. Directly affecting the population – “which is majority poor and Black, with almost no access to art and culture,” Lucas says – he, therefore, grew up thinking that art was never a viable option for him. Luckily, he spawned an interest in cinema which encouraged him to pursue his studies in the audiovisual arts. “In the hopes of starting my studies with some background knowledge, I took a photography course which has always been the area I felt connected to the most,” he tells It’s Nice That. “With time, I started working with fashion, where I saw a possibility to create work where I could put in evidence of the narratives of my community, making me turn my camera on the issues regarding our own territory.”
Inspired by the politics and world around him, Lucas’ portfolio is deeply personal in both its artistic style and the topics that he explores. His portraiture reveals intimate details of his subjects, sun-drenched landscapes and candid moments of his local neighbours; his work is utterly transformative and, in some ways, a remedial way to express himself. “I think first of all it comes from my experience as a Black gay man transiting between the peripheries and the white elitist world of arts,” he explains of his influences. “That has raised a lot of questions that are addressed in my body of work.” In other corners of his inspiration pool, Lucas turns to the people he meets while “navigating through contrasting worlds” – his family, friends, and neighbours as well as the LGBTQIA+ Black communities and the artists that he shares common grounds with.
Once inspiration has been sparked, Lucas will take to the streets to begin the physical process of shooting. Over time, he’s made to sure keep the habit of getting out and about as much as possible, and at different times of the day, meaning he’s able to observe the different light and how it seeps onto the neighbourhood. “Part of it comes from my experience within the camera industry, where I’ve learnt to work quite methodically,” he adds. Much of the process is also spent in the preliminary stage, where the photographer will dive into the planning, research and concept – during which he’ll scout locations, look for materials to work with the set, or get in touch with possible artists for collaboration. “I try to gather everything I need to compose beforehand so I can picture the shot before even taking it.”
Of late, Lucas has been keeping busy and has released a medley of projects delving into his neighbourhood and the people that occupy it. Recently, his work has been featured by Nataal for its intimate documentation of Brazil – published as part of a series entitled From Brazil, With Love and Optic Games, that’s spearheaded by Ode, a São Paulo-based stylist, writer and curator who interviews artists around the ideas of representation and the diaspora. Lucas and his vibrantly rich photography are currently making waves in the industry, and all for the right reasons too; it reveals a sincere and necessary depiction of life in Rio.
Bonfim is one of Lucas’ favourite pieces, mostly because it was his first independent project where he was able to “translate some of the matters addressing the history of my territory, of my people and to speak about the youth I belong to,” he notes. The protagonist in the image gazes down towards the lens, while a cluster of colourful strands decorates the top of their head – a decorative addition and “typical ornament of Afro-Brazilian origin that was co-opted by the catholic church.” Elsewhere, Lucas points out the series Fim de Trade em Realengo, which was taken during his very first photography walks around the neighbourhood – at a time when he was working in the fashion industry and “college had distanced me from my territory.” But this series brought him closer to home and resulted in a cinematic and spellbinding picture of his locality’s architecture: “Getting to photograph the place I was raised in was very important to me. I love this shot because it shows the entrance to my house.”
Lucas is proud of the place he comes from and, through his empowering photography, he hopes he can alter – and therefore thrash – the negative stereotypes often placed on his community by the western media. “I often notice the strange look on people’s faces when they see me shooting around the suburbs as if there was nothing interesting there for me to photograph,” he says. “This is all a consequence of colonisation, and a media that is not inclusive and has always gazed upon these places with negativity. And when we talk specifically about the Black queer population in the suburbs, things become even more problematic. Through my work, I try to change the misrepresentation of the community and spaces I feel part of.”
Lucas Cesário: Morro do Cavalão (gah) I (Copyright © Lucas Cesário, 2020)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent the last seven years as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.